When it comes to natural-looking, understated makeup, French girls know exactly what they’re doing. And considering the country’s centuries-old ties with cosmetics and makeup, it’s no wonder. While the rest of the world has spent the past 10 years learning how to contour, create a cut-crease eye look and “bake,” French girls have stayed true to their roots, choosing to ignore the new norm and stick to the no-fuss, low-maintenance (but seriously chic) makeup looks they’ve always known and loved.
Frankly, we’re here for it. Forget full-coverage bases and eye shadow creations that take half an hour to execute. French-girl makeup champions glowing skin with natural texture, a healthy-looking flush and just-bitten lips.
The good news is it couldn’t be easier to achieve. Not only is the signature French-girl look wonderfully low-maintenance, but it also helps that some of makeup’s biggest brands have come straight out of France, meaning there are a plethora of products that make executing the impossibly chic look surprisingly easy. Keep scrolling for the best French makeup brands out there as well as the tips and tricks French girls always use.
Best for: fresh-faced glow
When it comes to French cosmetics, it’s rare to find a brand that has stuck to its guns and remained independent. Chantecaille, however, is one of those rarities. Unlike other big French names which are often owned by large luxury houses such as LVMH, Chantecaille is an independent, family-owned brand that puts natural and botanical ingredients at its core. Way before clean beauty was even a thing, Chantecaille was championing plant extracts and floral ingredients in its products to deliver healthy-looking, glowing results. If you’re after a natural-looking glow, buttery pigments and a fresh-faced no-makeup result, Chantecaille is a go-to.
Not only is this compact chic enough to look like a high-end accessory, but what it contains is also essentially French-girl complexion magic. While traditional powder blushes can dull skin, this powder-balm formula can be tapped into cheeks to give the ultimate rosy glow.
When it comes to French-girl makeup, less is always more. Avoid heavy-coverage foundations and instead let natural skin shine through with a tinted moisturiser. This lightweight fluid provides impressive coverage while leaving skin looking fresh, velvety but glowing beyond compare. It really is one of the best tinted moisturisers out there.
Tap a sheer but luminous colour, just like this one, into lips for a natural-looking tint. It also contains hyaluronic acid to help deliver moisture and plump.
Best for: a classic lip
You might believe Dior makeup stands as little more than a piece of beauty hall furniture, but we can assure you that some of the best products out there come from this iconic French brand—most notably when it comes to lipsticks. Channel French-girl vibes and pair a bare face with a strikingly bright lip. It’s oh so chic and oh so simple.
Considered one of the most universally flattering lipsticks in existence, Dior’s 999 is a cool-toned red that leaves teeth looking white and skin looking bright. Now in a velvet finish, one swipe has the power to turn any look into something totally magical.
These tinted balms have long been favourites of models and makeup artists backstage at Paris Fashion Week. They’re nourishing and leave lips looking smooth and plumped but deliver just enough pigment to brighten up any look.
3. By Terry
Best for: easy application
If you’re a fan of the glowing, low-key results of YSL’s cult Touche Éclat, By Terry products will likely be a hit, considering the brand founder, Terry de Gunzburg, is responsible for creating the now-famous illuminating pen in 1992. After working as international makeup designer at YSL Beauté, de Gunzburg went on to create her own brand, By Terry. Renowned for its foolproof products, glowing bases and ultra-nourishing formulas, if you don’t consider yourself a makeup aficionado, this brand has you covered.
This handy set contains all of By Terry’s best hits for just £62. Including the iconic CC Serum, which can be slapped onto face with fingers for a seamless, glowing complexion, as well as the cult Ombre Blackstar eye shadow stick, which can be scribbled on in seconds, this little bag delivers a complete French-girl look that takes mere minutes to execute.
French girls always seem to have such enviably even complexions, and this concealer pen contains one of the best concealer formulas we have ever tried. It covers up discolouration and pigmentation with unparalleled ease and leaves skin looking bright and enlivened. Do as the French do and skip foundation entirely. Instead, just apply this in the areas that you need and blend it out with your fingers.
While some highlighters can be patchy and overly glittery, this illuminating palette contains four powders that blend into skin like butter, leaving no tell-tale signs that you’re wearing makeup at all. Brush the bronze pigment over cheekbones for a beachy, sun-kissed look, or dab the pink shades onto the apples of the cheeks for a rosy daytime look.
Best for: a classic look
Guerlain is perhaps one of the oldest French makeup brands out there, with the fragrance house being founded in the early 1800s. However, in true French fashion, its classic products have proved timeless over the years. From seamless powders that give porcelain finishes to velvety foundations that leave skin looking virtually flawless, Guerlain does classic base products like no other.
While the rest of us were busy experimenting with cool-toned contour powders, French beauty always championed natural-looking, sun-kissed bronzers. This cult bronzer is considered one of the best powders around thanks to its orange undertones and subtle shimmer.
If you want to reap all of the blurring benefits of a full-coverage foundation but want skin to appear bare, Guerlain’s L’Essential High Perfection Foundation should be your first port of call. It creates a lightweight, velvety veil on the skin but doesn’t dull the natural glow.
Best for: no-fuss colour
You didn’t think we’d do a French makeup round-up without mentioning this one, did you? Chanel has come to represent all of the finest things about French beauty. A combination of chic, luxe packaging, lightweight formulas and easy-to-use innovations makes Chanel every French girl’s makeup dream. And just because the traditional French aesthetic leans towards a more natural look, that’s not to say colour is totally out of the question. From diffused smoky eyes to rosy lips, Chanel is your go-to for subtle, fuss-free colour.
These super-hydrating lipsticks make for the ultimate handbag buy. A quick swipe delivers intense pigment that nourishes lips at the same time. Whenever you need a quick pick-me-up, this lipstick is sure to do the trick.
While nude lids and a slick of mascara will do for most days, no one perfects a low-key smoky eye quite like French girls, and Chanel’s eye shadow quads are the perfect way to achieve the effortless look. Simply smudge a deep brown over the lid, blending it into the lower lash line, and finish off with a dab of some shimmer in the centre of your lid. Et voilà, a chic evening eye look in no time at all!